The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 4)

The ships around Cyprus. From Greek daily Kathimerini

Last weeks events especially the death of Mr. Jobs, turned the attention of the public’s focus away from the Eastern Mediterranean. The number of articles published, the war mongering and empty threads diminished with the public general interest. May be it is good so.

Now is the era of back office diplomacy. It is time to talk and to bargain. Time will tell us Now these behind the closed doors talk will end.

Last week after a port visit to Girne the Turkish research ship R/V Koca Piri Reis resumed its activities off Cyprus. It is reported that the ship is now directed to an area that is further away from the famous Block 12.

In the mean time one Italian research ship R/V Explora and one Norwegian research R/V Bergen Surveyer ships are in Eastern Mediterranean conducting operations. The area is full of research ships.

The Turkish Piri Reis exploration vessel will continue its seismic research efforts off southern Cyprus, according to a Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Piri Reis has partially completed its work on Block 12, a contested zone where the Republic of Cyprus has also begun drilling for oil and natural gas.

While the Turkish media referred to a story published by the Greek Cypriot daily Phileleftheros, which said that two Israeli F-15 jets flew through the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot airspace and harassed the vessel, Piri Reis Captain Umut Yenice said, “We worked safely, and war jets watched us 24 hours a day,” after the ship completed its seismic data collection studies in a 445 square-mile zone around Cyprus under an exploration license from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus granted by the TRNC Council of Ministers to the state-owned Turkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortakligi (Turkish Petroleum Corporation, or TPAO) to explore for oil and natural gas in the sea around Cyprus.

Yenice said, “We began seismic studies on 26 September, and we have completed our studies in an almost 445 square-mile zone in about ten days,” Istanbul’s Hurriyet newspaper reported.

A serious political crisis erupted in Cyprus last week. The President of Cyprus Christofias, is facing harsh criticism because of his role in a catastrophe of biblical proportions. The investigations panel founded after the confiscated Iranian ammunition in 98 standard size containers exploded severely damaging Cyprus’s main naval base and the adjunct main power station, put the blame on Mr Christofias as he was politically responsible.

PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias was responsible for allowing and keeping in Cyprus the confiscated munitions that exploded on July 11 killing 13 men, and for approving their storage at the Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari, investigator Polys Polyviou concluded.

Polyviou also blamed defence minister Costas Papacostas and foreign minister Markos Kyprianou — both resigned in the aftermath of the blast — “but the main responsibility belongs to the President of the Republic, who heads the state and the government.”

“The President of the Republic in this case failed to take elementary measures for the security of Cyprus’s citizens. In this case I am not referring just to institutional responsibility,” Polyviou said. “The Executive, which is headed by the President of the Republic, failed miserably in taking the necessary measures to handle the matter.”

Reading out a summary of his 600-page plus report, Polyviou said the way in which the 98 containers had been stored was “completely irresponsible” and that their proximity to the power station had not been borne in mind, nor had the danger they posed to people working there.

“Even if the president did not sign a document choosing Mari and even if the National Guard and Defence Ministry decided to put them there the final decision belongs and is attributable to the president of the republic,” Polyviou said.

“The cargo was a time bomb placed in one of the most unsuitable places in Cyprus,” he added.

Mr. Christofias’ response the above mentioned accusations was not late and pretty much predictable: He denied that he was responsible and counter blamed the investigator Mr. Polyviou.

PRESIDENT Demetris Christofias yesterday defied calls for his resignation, rejecting the findings of an inquiry that he was personally responsible for the July 11 naval base blast that killed 13 people.

Christofias said he did not intend to resign but apologised to the relatives of the dead for the “mistakes, omissions and weaknesses” that led to the tragedy.

Christofias said the findings were not substantiated and accused investigator Polys Polyviou of overstepping his mandate by making suggestions and assessments concerning foreign policy.

“The President of the Republic categorically rejects that he has personal responsibility for the incident,” Christofias said last night in Limassol. “This conclusion … is not substantiated by the testimony and the material presented before the investigating committee. On the contrary.”

This accusations of guilt and responsibility for the Mari exposition is important as they may cause some important political changes in Greek part of Cyprus which in turn may effect the talks between the two communities in Cyprus and other activities around the island. But just before Cyprus gets the presidency for the EU I guess Mr. Christofias will do everything possible not to rock the boat too violently.

In a human gesture Israeli President Mr. Peres and Minister President Netanyahu send condolences to Turkey’s prime minister Mr. Erdoğan, after his mother died.

Israeli leaders have sent condolences to Turkey’s prime minister in a rare gesture of friendship at a time of deep strains between the former allies. Both President Simon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent their letters on news of the death of the mother of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.Peres wrote Sunday that the news “was received with much sadness,” and he empathized with “the boundless sorrow” of Erdogan’s loss.

Erdogan’s mother died Friday

I wonder what did Mr. Lieberman send if anything at all?

While dealing with the political fallout of the Mari explosion, Cyprus has handed the protection of its EEZ to Israel.

According to a report in Phileleftheros the Israeli Air Force has now ramped up patrols near the exploration zones, with “intensive activity south of Cyprus yesterday.” 

Meanwhile the Turkish side announced that it will make more moves in the Eastern Mediterranean. 

The paper reports that over the last 24-hours: “the Israelis have dominated the area and monitored all movement near the Cyprus platform”. 

Last week the Greek and Turkish defence ministers hold talks during the session of Defence ministers of countries of Southeastern Europe in Antalya. I guess it is a good thing that both parties have a formal communication channel despite the harsh words and all.

National Defence Minister Panos Beglitis, speaking after his first meeting with his Turkish counterpart Ismet Yilmaz, in the framework of the session of Defence ministers of countries of Southeastern Europe in Antalya on Sunday, said “I raised the issue of Confidence Building Measures, where sincerely we have achieved considerable progress, but the two sides can work even more to enable us to create a climate of mutual trust, to reduce the mistrust between the two sides.” 
Beglitis also said that in this meeting he conveyed the Greek government’s concern over the recent violations of Greek airspace on the part of Turkish aircraft. 

On naval deployments there was some action last week: The Greek frigate F-452 HS Hydra was send to Eastern Mediterranean. The ship will take part in NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor. Turkish frigate F-247 TCG Kemalreis returned from the Eastern Mediterranean. Her passage off the Cape Sounio caused much excitement in the Greek media so that The Greek Defence Ministry had to publish a public announcement about the covering of TCG Kemalreis‘ passage in the media. Here is the Google translation of this announcement:

ANSWER IN PRESS
On the occasion of unsigned newspaper “Republic” entitled “to come Sounion Turkish frigate”, which contains false and slanderous reports about the fighting ability of the Armed Forces, the Defence announces that:
The author of the article lies and slanders the Defence and Armed Forces referring to supposedly complete surprise and panic, when the official announcement is clearly indicated on the motion of the ship from the area of ​​Rhodes to and exit from the Strait of Kafirea. The Armed Forces of the monitoring system have routinely monitor all vessels operating within the area of ​​responsibility by taking action where necessary.

F-247 TCG Kemalreis in heavy weather. Photo from blog Strategy Reports

Stressed that no reporter from this newspaper attempted to contact the General Staff to update or crosscheck the information was of “fishermen.” We urge them not to come into contact with the Press Office of the General Staff to be informed in detail about how the Armed Forces attended the voyage of Frigate and given a detailed outline of the ship’s motion (path and time).
Inform the end the author of the article, that such reports affect primarily the staff of the Armed Forces, working 24 hours a day, in this case as one that was responsible for monitoring the voyage of the frigate from early morning until early evening Saturday hour.

For the previous updates of Eastern Mediterranean:
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)
The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)

MEKO Users Gathered In Athens. And Brazil Was Among Them

The repretantetives of navies, that operate warships based on MEKO (MEhrzweck KOmbination, or multipurpose combination) design concept, come together time to time. Known as the The MEKO User Workshop, this gathering provides a unique opportunity for the international community of MEKO users to network and exchange information and activities aimed at promoting a better understanding of the collective MEKO supportability and employment issues and activities being undertaken or planned by each of the nations operating the MEKO ships.

I think that this is a very clever idea for marketing the MEKO design concept from the former Blohm & Voss now TKMS. The idea was copied by the German Submarine Consortium as SubCon series of users conferences aimed for the navies that use Type 209 class submarines.

This years MEKO Users Workshop was held under the patronage of Greek Navy in Athens. This is the official statement as translated by Google:

Ref 114
Friday, October 7, 2011

PRESS RELEASE

From the Navy General Staff announced the completion of the work of the conference MEKO Users Workshop 2011 held from 3 to 7 October 2011 in Athens. The conference, held annually, made presentations and discussed technical and operational matters between the Navy, which have included in their power class Frigates MEKO t and defense industry. The conference was attended by representatives of the Navy from 9 countries (Greece, Australia, Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Malaysia, South Africa, New Zealand and Portugal)
At the conference, the Navy no longer competent Officers involvement in issues related to P / C sq. HYDRA, organized visits to the PNM J / K AVEROF in F / C SALAMIS and Administration Underwater Demolition, and made a presentation of opportunities and the role of the Centre for Maritime Interdiction Training (KENAP).

Commander Adamantios Christodoulou PN
Navy spokesman

There are two things that bother me here:
1) One of the major MEKO users Turkish Navy is not mentioned here. It is possible that given the current political tension in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish Navy was not invited. Or Turkish Navy was indeed invited, but chose not to attend. That is understandable.
2) Brazil was not and is not a MEKO users. There is not one major warship in Brazilian Navy constructed by German shipyards. So why were they here?

TCG Oruçreis, The Only Ship In NATO’s SNMG-2, Takes Part in Exercise Joint Warrior

In July I posted the above photo of the Standing NATO Maritime Group 2 and asked if this was the lamest NATO fleet ever? The answer was “No” as at that time SNMG-1 was made of only one Italian destroyer. Today SNMG-1 has 4 ships.

In the mean time, the SNMG-2 has indeed become the lamest NATO fleet. On NATO’s website the SNMG-2 fleet consists of two ships as in July: Turkish flagship F-245 TCG Oruçreis and Greek frigate F-464 HS Kanaris. So far so good. But this is the list of the ships participating at the second of two annual international joint military exercise (with UK, NATO and allied forces), Joint Warrior 112 which runs from 3rd – 17th October 2011.

From the USA, the Commander of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 is embarked in the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), the leader of a class of guided missile destroyers. The Ashleigh Burke accompanied by the Fleet Replenishment Oiler, USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196) – both based in Norfolk, Virginia.
From Denmark are: HDMS Esbern Snare (L17), an Absalon-class command and support ship; and HDMS Vædderen – (F359), a Thetis-class ocean patrol vessel .
From Turkey is the frigate, TCG Orucreis (F245).
From Germany comes the Bremen class frigate, FGS Rheinland-Pfalz – F209.
From the Netherlands is the third De Zeven Provinciën class frigate, HNLMS De Ruyter – F804
From Estonia is the launcher ENS TASUJA (A432)
From Germany is FGS Usberrhern (M1095)
From Poland comes the minesweeper ORP Flaming (621 )
From Norway is the minesweeper HNOMS Maaloey
From the UK come the Fleet Amphibious Flagship and High Readiness Assault Ship, HMS Bulwark (L15), with 150 men and 19 vehicles of the 2nd Marine Infantry (Le Mans) Regiment embarked; Hunt-class mine countermeasure vessel HMS Hurworth (M39) Sandown class minehunter HMS Penzance (M106), Hunt-class minesweeper HMS Cattistock (M31), Hunt-class minesweeper HMS Ledbury ( M30) and Sandown-class minehunter HMS Blyth (M111).

Unfortunately the Greek frigate is not listed as participant which means that she is not here. Which further means that TCG Oruçreis is taking part in this exercise representing NATO’s SNMG-2. In other words there is only TCG Oruçreis left in SNMG-2. And that makes SNMG-2 officially the smallest NATO fleet.

Mr. Dougie Coull has made excellent photos of the participating ships. If you look to the photos of the Turkish ships you will notice the big blue NATO pennant on the each side of the bridge. This pennant clearly shows that the Turkish ships is under NATO’s control.

I hope that the disappearance of HS Kanaris has nothing to do with this:

Greece will significantly reduce its participation in Nato and EU military missions due to the economic crisis in the country, National Defence Minister Panos Beglitis announced on the sidelines of an informal EU defence ministers’ Council held here on Friday. 
He said that the ministry was preparing to cut down Greece’s participation in the Nato and EU missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Somalia, noting that local political forces in Afghanistan and Kosovo were anyway entering the phase where they would gradually take over control. 
Beglitis made it clear, however, that Greece would not withdraw entirely and will continue to maintain a small presence as long as the international missions continued to exist.

 

A New Video About TCG Heybeliada

A new video about TCG Heybeliada.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 3)

While Eastern Mediterranean continues to be hotspot new players are trying to enter the game. One of them is France. According to Greek Daily Kathimerini:

French energy companies ‘Total’ and ‘Gaze de France’ bought three-dimensional seismic data for gas deposits in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The cost of seismic data was over the 2 million euros for the company “Gaze de France” and over 1.6 million euros for the “Total”.

So after Russia, France decided to stuck its nose to this hotspot. For years France was one of the main armament supplier of Greek Cypriots. Therefore their arrival is not a big surprise. It is a known fact that Mr. Sarkozy does not have much foundnes for Turks with the French elections on the horizon he will try to boast his popularity by bashing Turkey. Therefore the involvement of the French energy companies into Cyprus should not be a surprise.

In the meantime Russia decided to bolster its presence  in the Mediterranean. Apparently the invisible nuclear submarines they have sent did not make any noteworthy deterrence so that Russia decided to send her biggest warship the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov to the region. An aircraft carrier is a very large ship ands its presence in not disputable unlike submarines.

The heavy air-capable cruiser Admiral Kuznetsov at the head of a squadron of Northern Fleet ships will set out on a long-distance voyage in November this year to accomplish combat duty missions in the Mediterranean Sea and the North-Eastern Atlantic, anofficer at the Main Naval Headquarters (MNH) of Russia told Itar-Tass on Thursday.

“The Admiral Kuznetsov will go to the Barents Sea on November 13 and moor up there to take on board an air wing — eight jetfighters Su-33, several MiG-29K, as well as two ASW helicopters Ka-27. The air wing will be drilling the tasks of takeoff and landing onto the deck of the carrier for a week.

“On November 19, the Admiral Kuznetsov will set out on a three-month cruise to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The large anti-submarine ship Admiral Chabanenko will be together with the cruiser among the carrier group of ships for screening and combat support purposes,” the MNH officer said.

Verification is under way of a list of foreign ports to be visited by the Russian ships, including an update in view of the developments in the Middle East and North Africa. The question of the Russian ships’ participation in joint exercises together with the navies of countries in the region is being worked out as well, the MNH officer pointed out.

The Turkish reasech vessel R/V Koca Piri Reis arrived its search zone south of Cyprus and started to work. According to Turkish daily Milliyet the area in which R/V Koca Piri Reis is working is adjundat to the famous Block 12. The reaserch ship is reported to be shadowed by two Turkish warships: the frigate F-491 TCG Giresun and the corvette F-504 TCG Bartın.

Since the early morning hours of Tuesday, the Turkish research vessel “Piri Reis” along with two Turkish warships, has been coming and going in plot No12, located at the marine area where, on behalf of the Cypriot government, the US company “Noble Energy International “is carrying out research to find gas.

There are rumors that Israeli fighters and military helicopters are providing company to the research ship R/V Koca Piri Reis. 

Israel Defense Forces jet fighters were scrambled toward a Turkish seismic research ship in the Eastern Mediterranean, Turkish media reported on Friday, in what seemed to be a further escalation in the already fraying ties between the once longtime allies.

According to the report, cited by the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman and based on a report by the Turkish Vatan daily, two Israel Air Force F-15s took off to face the Turkish vessel on Thursday night, flying through the airspace of both Cyprus and Turkish Cyprus.

The report added that the warplanes approached the Turkish ship despite incessant warnings by forces in Turkish Cyprus, according to which the planes had breached the territory’s airspace.

Ultimately, the report indicated, Turkey launched two F-16 fighters to track the Israeli planes, at which point the IAF fighter jets returned to Israeli airspace.

The above mentioned rumors were quickly denied by all parties:

Reached by satellite phone onboard the Koca Piri Reis on Friday, second mate Cevdet Kılıçer said he could see a Turkish military ship closely following his vessel as it conducted surveys about 45 kilometres south of Cyprus.

He declined to name the Turkish warship, or give details about the naval protection for his team. But he said the crew of the research vessel remains in regular contact with their military counterparts, and feels reassured by the armed presence. “There are no other ships around here, we are alone, so we are just doing our job,” Mr. Kılıçer said.

The officer also seemed skeptical about a flurry of reports about Israeli and Turkish aircraft jockeying in the skies nearby. Two newspapers in Cyprus, the Phileleftheros and the Cyprus Mail, citing military sources, reported that two Israeli jets and a helicopter flew into the area this week. Turkish media ran similar stories, adding that Turkey scrambled its fighter jets in response, and the Israeli planes retreated back to their own airspace. Such activity could have happened too far away to be visible from the Koca Piri Reis; the second mate sounded genuinely puzzled about it.

“There is no aircraft around here,” Mr. Kılıçer said. “This is a safe place for us. Everything is alright now, we haven’t seen anything.” An Israeli military spokeswoman also denied the reports. “It didn’t happen,” she said.

In the mean time there reports from Greece that the problematic submarine  H/S Papanikolis seems to be rehabilitated.

Three objectives were set simultaneously in the sights of the battle system of the submarine Type 214 Papanikolis under operational testing of weapon systems and subsystems that are underway and more specifically, in the final stage.

In particular, a triple – while firing torpedoes. The purpose of this operational energy was to evaluate the performance of the system for control of three weapons from the submarine combat system.

According to reports, the test has successfully. Recalled that the system tries regularly and participates in all activities of the Fleet which is very important especially lately grown continuously challenges to security and defense of sovereignty of the country, especially in the eastern Mediterranean.

What the above quoted article tactfully skips to tell is the type of the torpedoes Papanikolis supposed to have fired. The issue about this submarine’s main armament is not solved. Initially Greek Navy decided to use Italian Black Shark torpedoes. But this choice was cancelled in 2004 due to high cost of integration of the Italian torpedoes into German combat system. Currently there are no announced acquisition plans for modern torpedoes. So what kind of torpedoes are used?

For the previous updates of eastern Mediterranean:

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 1)

TCG Heybeliada Commissioned. A New Era For Turkish Navy

F-511 TCG Heybeliada

Yesterday was the 473. Anniversary of the Battle of Preveza. This day is also celebrated as the Turkish Navy Day. This years highlight was not the launching of the second Milgem class corvette F-512 TCG Büyükada but the commissioning of the first ship F-511 TCG Heybeliada.

The MILGEM class corvettes have a 99m mono hull with many stealth features incorporated into the design of the ship. The planned displacement was around 2,000 tons but apparently in grow to 2,300 tons. The armament is one 76mm Oto/Melara gun, 8 RGM-84 Harpoon missiles and 2 Mk-32 twin torpedo launchers. For self defense the ship is armed with a 21 cell RIM-116 RAM, 2 STAMP remote controlled stabilized weapon stations and Ultra SeaSentor torpedo counter measure system.

But I just I don’t want to talk about the specifications of these ships but I would like to stress what the MILGEM project means for Turkish Navy and how it will shape the future.

The combat information center of TCG Heybeliada. Note the map on the big blue screen at right! Photo: from NTVMSNBC

For Turkey the MİLGEM is the most important naval procurement project, going on. MILGEM is an acronym of the Turkish word Milli Gemi (National Ship). This high priority project is pivotal as it will form the foundation for experience and know-how for the design, production and integration of a complex warship through local means. The programme is also critical in defining the future of the customer – producer relationship between the Turkish Navy (as end-user and the builder of the first two ships), the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries (as procurement agency) and private shipyards (as suppliers). The successful conclusion of this project will mark a new era for naval ship building in Turkey and will shape the Turkish naval ship building industry and the big future projects like TF-2000 air defence frigate.

The history of MILGEM goes back to the late 1990s. In 1996 Turkish Navy declared that it wanted to procure eight corvettes under the project MILGEM. As the name shows a maximum of Turkish contribution was desired from the beginning. When the project first started, a German shipyard immediately offered their corvettes design which was then still largely on drawing board. This move was logical as they did not wanted to lose a lucrative market for them.  After delays due to severe economic crises, MILGEM was brought into life by Defense Industry Executive Committee (DIEC) in February 2000. Initial acquisition numbers were eight platforms plus four optional.

Despite the fact that twelve shipyards acquired the Request for Proposal, only two submitted proposals, both of which were found to be invalid due to the deficiency in the bid bonds.

Thus it seemed for a couple of years as if the MILGEM project was put on ice. In 2004 in an unprecedented move a dedicated design office was created for MILGEM by Turkish Navy. MILGEM Project Office (MPO) which is located at Istanbul Naval Shipyard was tasked with all design and construction activities regarding the ship.

After the MPO started to design the ship, the Undersecretariat for Defense Industries, the main defense procurement agency in Turkey, started in cooperation with Turkish Navy, the bidding process for various sub systems of the ship. In parallel, a series of workshops were organized in order to arouse the interest of the commercial ship building, machinery and supporting industries. This was necessary in order to obtain a high degree of local contribution.

The bridge of TCG Heybeliada. Photo: from NTVMSNBC

Thus MILGEM grew above being just a simple ship building program, as some of the important sub systems, equipment and sensors are being produced for the first time for MILGEM. For example the hull mounted sonar to be used in MILGEM class warships was developed by TUBITAK. It is worth to note that the sonar installed in TCG Heybeliada is the first ever sonar designed and constructed in Turkey. Similarly, the fire control radar for the main gun developed by Aselsan, is the first fire control radar ever designed and produced in Turkey. Many sub systems and sensors developed from MILGEM will be used in the future ship building projects of the Turkish Navy for sure.

With this project many small or medium sized Turkish companies specialized in their own fields such as water treatment or marine subsystems production started to do business with Turkish Armed Forces. For these companies doing business with the armed forces was a steep learning process. Many companies found the military standards and the test to prove that the products are up the these standards very high. The preparation of the necessary usage and maintenance documents was also a challenge especially for the smaller companies as it required a dedicated staff. In my eyes the success of the MILGEM project is to create the synergy and the excitement for all participants and giving the support for overcoming the difficulties in a harmonious way.

The success or the failure of the MILGEM programme, will directly influence the procurement model for the all planned major combat ship projects such as TF-2000. Turkish Navy has a requirement for a dedicated anti air warfare frigate to create a wide reaching air defense umbrella for its task forces, if necessary. Turkish Navy is defining her requirements and Undersecretariat for Defense Industries is defining its acquisition model. TF-2000 programme will start probably when MILGEM production is handed over from Istanbul Naval Shipyard to private shipyards. The current plans forecast 4 frigates to be commissioned in 2018-2020 time frame.

TCG Büyükada Launched

F-512 TCG Büyükada.

 

Today the second ship of the Milgem class corvettes, F-512 TCG Büyükada was launched with a ceremony in Tuzla Naval Shipyard, Istanbul.

I wish her calm sea and following winds.

This is a short video I have made using time-lapse technique.

And this is a professional news quality video of the same event

 

TCG Heybeliada on TV

The Turkish Radio and Television Corporation, the national public broadcaster of Turkey made a TV program about the first Milgem class corvette F-511 TCG Heybeliada.

The video is in Turkish and as it is almost 20 minutes long I was not able to translate the gist. But for the behalf of my non Turkish readers I can tell that everyone on the ship is very excited and proud of their achievements.

The Situation In The Eastern Mediterranean (Part 2)

While thew worlds attention is turned to the recent meetings and debates in the UN in New York, the high tension situation continues in the Eastern Med. The harsh rhetoric of last week turned into concrete actions.

Turkey signed an oil and gas exploration agreement with Northern Cyprus the Turkish Cypriot part of the island. This move was immediately condemned by Greek Cypriots who consider themselves the real and only inhabitants of the island.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, making good on earlier threats, has signed an agreement with Dervis Eroglu, president of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), to explore for oil and natural gas offshore in the eastern Mediterranean.

“This agreement we signed today with the Republic of Turkey is a precautionary measure to make our Greek counterparts desist,” Eroglu said, referring to the Greek-speaking Republic of Cyprus.

Cyprus has been divided along ethnic lines since 1974, when Turkish troops occupied its northern third in response to what it saw as an Athens-engineered coup in Nicosia aimed at union with Greece.

Turkey has repeatedly called on Cyprus to postpone its exploration for oil and gas, saying that the Greek side has no right to undertake a unilateral search for sources of energy while the island remains divided.

On Friday, the old, tried and dependable Turkish seismic research ship R/V K. Piri Reis departed from her homeport and is heading towards Cyprus. She is the only Turkish registered civilian ship for this purpose. The 38 years old ship is destined to be replaced by newer ships.

Turkey has sent an energy exploration ship to search for gas and oil in waters off the Turkish-controlled north of Cyprus.

Turkey had warned it would take the step unless Greek Cypriots cancelled their own plans to drill for gas in waters they control to the south.

Live footage of the Piri Reis leaving the port of Izmir on Friday was broadcast on Turkish television.

There was no sign of a naval escort despite earlier suggestions by the Turkish government.

While BBC reports that there was no sign of close naval escort of R/V K. Piri Reis, there are reports that three Turkish warships, the frigate  F-247 TCG Salihreis, the training ship A-577 TCG Sokullu Mehmet Paşa and the tug Y-161 TCG Öncü  have sailed to the Aegan Sea. There are also reports that Turkish submarines are deployed in the region but due to the stealthy nature of submarines such news are impossible for us either to confirm or to deny.

The US based think tank STRATFOR suggested that it could be a wise move for Greece to stage an attack against Turkey using the current situation as an excuse. STRATFOR is run by Mr. George Freidman who in this book “The Next 100 years” foresees a large scale war between alliance of Turkey and Japan and the alliance of USA and Poland.

Turkey reckons that Europe is far too distracted with the eurozone crisis to come up with a coherent policy for Greece’s troubled finances, much less an energy dispute in Cypriot waters. Ankara also assumed that the United States, already dealing with multiple, growing crises in the eastern Mediterranean, and looking for Turkish assistance to put out many of these fires, would defend Turkey and pressure the Greek Cypriots and Noble Energy to hold back on drilling.

The Turkish government may need to factor in an additional concern. Greece may indeed be far too distracted with its financial crisis to react decisively to Turkey’s actions against Cyprus. But if Turkey actually tries to follow through with its threat — carrying out overflights and providing naval escorts to energy exploration crews in disputed Cypriot waters — things could get messy. And if a hard-pressed Greek government is looking for a distraction to rally public support, a conflict with Turkey may not be a bad idea — especially if it’s one the Turks weren’t anticipating.

While this kinda warmongering article is interesting to read it fails entirely to answer one simple question: A war is a very costly matter. Look how the two relatively low intensity wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, crippled US economy.

So how on earth will Greece finance Greece a shooting war with Turkey when the whole economical survival of this nation is dependent on the money she is going to receive from EU and IMF?

Turkey’s involvement in the Eastern Mediterranean is not limited to Israel or Cypruss. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Barack Obama agreed during a meeting on 20th September 2011 Tuesday, to build up pressure on Syria’s embattled president to produce a result that would meet Syrian people’s demands. Just 4 days after this annonucement Turkey sized an Syrian flagged ship carriying arms to Syria.

Turkey has seized a Syrian-flagged ship loaded with weapons, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said. He did not say where or when the vessel was stopped, but vowed to confiscate any arms shipments for Syria coming through Turkish waters or airspace.

Mr. Erdogan has repeatedly criticised Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his government’s violent crackdown on street protesters.

Last week, Mr. Erdogan said the era of oppressive dictators was over.

“Turkey has arrested a ship flying the Syrian flag and carrying weapons,” Mr. Erdogan said in New York where he attended the UN General Assembly, Turkey’s Anataolia news agency reports. “If in the future arms shipments (to Syria) are made by air or land, we will stop and seize them,” he added.

I hope that we would be more careful with the storage of the seized weapons than Cyprus. With so much going on in the Eastern Mediterranean we cannot risk to lose any harbor installations.

I have tried to summarize what happened in the last couple of days in the region. The tension in region will remain high. So stay tuned. Click for the previous installment.

5 Days To Go


Until the commissioning of the first Milgem class corvette F-511 TCG Heybeliada into service.

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